“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”
“Failure is never truly failure unless you get depressed, crawl under the covers and give up”
When building a world-class digital business continuity & critical event management program experimentation and smart failure by your BC team, management and must be encouraged, expected and coveted on the road to digital success. Unfortunately, in my experience this is the opposite expectation in most Industrial age companies. People with good ideas are afraid to try new things because their ideas might not work the first time. They worry they will be failures in the eyes of their boss and co-
workers and perhaps lose their job. Some managers forget the 99% of great things achieved during the year and ding you on the time you went beyond the same-old process and tried something new.
We must get over the ‘failure thing’ if we want to truly be innovative and digital successes Successful digitally transformed businesses instill a
culture that it is okay to experiment, fail fast, adjust and try again (iterate). You can learn a lot from ‘failure’. Sometimes we call them ‘lessons learned’. I speak about this the post ‘How to Create Value Fast Using MVP’s and Pivots’. Often this iterative process can be done quickly
and on a small budget.
I covet ‘failure’. When I am interviewing people for my team I ask them about recent projects they participated in that did not work and why. If I am seeking someone for a creative, innovative, digital transformation type position and they tell me they have never failed, that is not the person I am
seeking. The person I am seeking is someone that is imaginative, thinks outside the box and enjoys building new and better products and services. Failure is part of the game.
I created a short list of people that failed quite often. I hope it inspires you to be bold. I hope someday you and I are fortunate enough to join this list of ‘failures’:
• Thomas Edison – failed over 1,000 times in an effort to find the best filament when he was inventing the electric light bulb. He was a relentless experimenter.
Every ‘failure’ and adjustment got him a step closer to success. Each step on his journey may have been minuscule but when he discovered that ‘needle
in a haystack’ he changed the world with clean light. When a reporter asked him, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Think like Edison and you will do great things.
• Mike Trout – is a baseball player who fails almost 7 out of 10 times when he tries to get a base hit. He makes millions of dollars for the 3 successes (.300) and is likely carving a path to the Baseball Hall of Fame based on intelligent failure.
• Pete Alonzo – is a baseball player who often strikes out over 100 times in a season – but when he does not strike out watch out because a 500-foot
home run may be heading your way!
• Michael Jordan, Jerry West, LeBron James, James
Harden, Steph Curry, Zion Williamson and every guard that has played in the NBA since day one – all failures! Every one of them failed on most of their shots. None of them hit 50% of their shots over a season or a career. I just wish I had 1% of their game.
o I love this quote from Michael Jordan:
o “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
The greatest sales person in the world can ‘smile and dial’ and cold-call one hundred prospects, get ninety-nine no’s (and f!*k y!# then click) and perhaps get one yes. If that one yes leads to the sale of a big-ticket product or service it can make the salesperson wealthy. For example, imagine you are a digital entrepreneur pitching VC’s and M&A’s. One yes from current VC Marc Andreessen, the co-creator of Mosaic which was the first popular web browser, and you are gold!
Innovation, relentless experimentation and learning from ‘failure’ did not start yesterday or even 50 years ago. You can learn a lot from the past. Throughout the site I sprinkle ‘Learning from the Past’ profiles. Please do not skip them. One of my favorite ‘failure’ stories started over 100
years ago. Enjoy…
Learning from the Past: Emanuel Haldeman-Julius and his secret to selling 500,000,000 books and over 6,000 titles
This is not a story about business continuity or critical event management but you can apply Emanuel’s thinking to our profession. Map it to how you are building your business continuity & critical event management program. The process of successful experimentation is important to you, not necessarily the product. Also, if you think you have a book inside you (I have had 15 published so far) you should read this story. You can also contact me for advice.
Emanuel Haldeman-Julius as born July 30, 1889 and died July 31, 1951. He was a self-made man. As a child, he was an avid reader. His love for books, similar to mine, steered him to become a writer, similar to me. Eventually he purchased a newspaper and became a publisher. Next, he created a series called the Little Blue Books which would define his career.
The series which began in the early 1900’s was very successful for half a century. Remarkably, his process for attaining success maps well to attaining success in digital world, which is why I profiled him for your benefit.
Here are three key reasons for his success:
1 – Emanuel took the time to understand what the public wanted to read. He did not publish what only he wanted. He used feedback and data to make decisions. I can attest that works. Out of the thirteen books I have written and published my primary concern is always understanding what readers
want and need, before writing that book. I rely on data for my critical decisions, not hunches.
2 – Emanuel differentiated Little Blue Books by attractively pricing them at 5 cents a copy. Priced for inflation they would be comparable to some eBooks in our digital age. As you will learn later in the book digital models allow us to sell products at very low or very high price points. We can even give digital products away for free to disrupt markets and become wealthy.
3 – All 500,000,000 of Emanuel’s books had the same cover design, the same price and were the same size. The only variable was the title. It was his treatment of titles that demonstrates how lucrative it can be to embrace
experimentation and covet failure. I can relate because 6 of my previous 12 books had the same, to be honest awfully designed covers (I may be the worst graphics person ever), but the titles were on target and honest. They all did very well. I do like the design of the book you are reading.
Emanuel meticulously tabulated data for every title in the series. As the number of titles surpassed 1,000 he had a wealth of ‘big data’, for his era. He was clever and leveraged the data in many ways. He was way ahead of his time.
He set a baseline that each title had to achieve 10,000 sales annually or it would be sent to ‘The Hospital’ to be fixed. He had a hypothesis, garnered from examining the data, that a key differentiator between a successful book and a poorly selling book was the title.
Each book sent to ‘The Hospital’ would be examined by three editorial assistants. From the data, they could isolate key words and rules that trended in successful books. They then brainstormed and came up with the best title based on the insight and used that title for a trial. Because they
carefully recorded sales on each title, they could accurately track what worked and what did not. If a changed title did not work it would go back to ‘The Hospital’ for another fix.
Here are some examples of books that were admitted to The Hospital:
• Privateersman sold 7,500 copies in 1925 and 8,000 in 1926. After a title change to The Battles of a Seaman in 1927, it sold 10,000 copies.
• Fleece of Gold sold 6,000 copies in 1925. After a title change to The Quest for a Blond Mistress in 1926, it sold 50,000 copies.
• The Mystery of the Iron Mask sold 11,000 annually before a title change to The Mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask that sold 30,000 copies annually.
• The Nobody Who Apes Mobility went from near zero sales to 10,000 annually after changing the title to The Show-Off.
• Many of his other books increased in sales 400%, 500% and higher annually after having a title fix in ‘The Hospital’. Some had to be changed up to six times to find the best title.
Emanuel also wrote a detailed biography of his life,
which you may find interesting and can apply to your digital
Personally, as an author of 15 books, the titles of my books are what I stress over the most. As Emanuel proved the title can make or break a book. When you pour months and years into writing a book and so much depends on the title it pays to craft the best one possible. My process is to develop 40+ titles using powerful key words. I then get feedback from potential readers on what would inspire them to pause and perhaps read the description and enjoy the first few chapters for free. I review all the feedback data and
publish it. If the title does not work I send it to ‘The Marty Digital Book Hospital’.
If you are interested in learning more about Emanuel I suggest you try – http://www.haldeman-julius.org/
As you are building your business continuity and critical event management program, you should experiment and embrace ‘smart failure’.